Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Victoria Tunnel Tour Demand Sees Call Go out for More Guides

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Victoria Tunnel Tour Demand Sees Call Go out for More Guides

Article excerpt


MORE than 10,000 people a year now walk beneath the streets of Newcastle in what is one of the city's most popular outings.

Business is booming at the Victoria tunnel, with around 50 guided tours a month. But it's a very different business to that for which the tunnel was built - to transport coal under Newcastle from Spital Tongues colliery to the where the Tyne meets the Ouseburn.

The tours began when the Ouseburn Trust took over management of the tunnel six years ago, with guides recently marking the structure's 174th anniversary with an event in the Bigg Market.

Now the tunnel tours are rated number one in things to do when visiting Newcastle by Tripadvisor.

Such has been the success that tours coordinator Clive Goodwin is appealing for more guides to boost the current 34 volunteers.

"The demand for tours is overwhelming, and if we can get more guides we will be able to increase the tours we can offer," says Clive.

"I think the attraction is that the tunnel is a fascinating place which is full of history and it is under the streets of Newcastle, hidden away. It's unique.

"The Victorian engineers who built it were brilliant, but I think they would be amazed at its use today."

Tours for up to 15 people last for around two hours, taking in a distance of three quarters of a mile from the tunnel entrance in Ouse Street.

Guides outline why it was built, the problems the engineers faced, and its later use as a Second World War are raid shelter, accompanied by sound effects.

Visitors can see what remains of its wartime usage, including a cruci-fix from the time fashioned from concrete into which is engraved a list of names.

In addition to the public tours, the tunnel is visited by around 1,200 primary school pupils a year, plus older students and company outings.

The tunnel has also hosted an orchestral performance, a play, and an art exhibition.

The guides recently won the award as Best Volunteer Team at Tyne Wear Museum's 2015 annual award ceremony.

New Guides receive an induction and support from the tunnel coordinator, and are then mentored by experienced guides until they feel ready to lead a tour.

Clive says: "Our guides amaze us with their talents, going way beyond what is expected. Recently one guide assisted hearing impaired visitors by translating the tour into sign language, and a school visit unexpectedly required considerable French interpretation.

"Other guides set up specific tours for taking photographs in the tunnel. This has developed into a light painting evening twice a month."

Some of the Ouseburn Trust's guides have explained why they became involved and why they go back for more.

Kelly Thompson says: "85ft below our beloved city, I have found a home. …

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